The prime minister has told African leaders there will not be “single penny more” of UK taxpayers’ money spent on coal mining or coal powered energy stations.
Boris Johnson also said an overhaul to the immigration system post-Brexit will “put people before passports” and ability before country of origin, in a bid to attract talented Africans to the UK, which he described as the “ultimate one-stop-shop” for tech, trade and education.
Speaking at the first ever UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020, held in London today (January 20), Johnson told the major gathering of African political leaders and businesses: “Look around the world today and you will swiftly see that the UK is not only the obvious partner of choice, we’re also very much the partner of today, of tomorrow and decades to come.”
‘Change is coming’
With more than a nod to Brexit, Johnson said: ““Change is coming, and our system is becoming fairer and more equal between all our global friends and partners, treating people the same wherever they come from.
“By putting people before passports we were will able to attract the best talent from around the world, wherever they may be,
PM – ‘not another penny of UK taxpayers’ money on African coal’
Announcing the immediate end of UK funding for coal mining and coal-fuelled projects in developing countries as part of the fight against climate change and threats to biodiversity, the PM said: “There’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it.”
He continued: “To put it simply not another penny of UK taxpayers’ money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity.”
The UK’s focus is now on supporting lower or zero carbon projects, said the PM.
However, Johnson immediately opened himself to criticism by stating the UK will continue to fund gas and oil extraction with campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) saying the government must go further.
Johnson told the African leaders the UK’s support will involve “helping you extract and use oil and gas in the cleanest, greenest way possible” while “turbo-charging” renewable energy projects such as solar, hydro and wind.
He reassured his audience by describing the idea that renewable-energy will hold back economic growth in developing countries as a “myth” and added: “Here in the UK, we have cut CO2 emissions by 42% since 1990 and yet GDP has gone up by 67%.”
Johnson said: “We stand ready to help you do the same, tackling the causes of climate change while also delivering the power needed to unlock the potential of all your people.”
UK must pull plug on all fossil fuels
FoE’s Rachel Kennedy said the immediate end of funding for coal projects overseas is “long overdue”, adding: “The prime minister must now demonstrate his determination to confront the climate crisis by pulling the plug on UK funding for gas and oil projects abroad too.
“UK investment should be targeted at projects that use energy from the sun, tides and wind, increasing energy access and decreasing poverty – as well as helping people abroad to deal with the impacts of the climate crisis they are already experiencing.”
UK-Africa Investment Summit
Billions of pounds of deals are expected to be announced during the course of the summit that brings together businesses and politicians from 21 African countries with their British counterparts.
Johnson will have meetings with many politicians and business leaders attending the summit, who include: President Buhari of Nigeria, President Sisi of Egypt, President Akufo-Addo of Ghana, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Kagame of Rwanda.
African business leaders attending include the CEO of Standard Bank Gert Vogel, and the CEO of Investec Hendrik Du Toit. UK business leaders include CEO of G4S Ashley Martin Almanza, CEO of BP Bernard Looney, CEO of Associated British Foods George Weston, CEO of Standard Life Aberdeen Keith Skeoch, the CEO of Vodafone Nick Read, and CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group David Schwimmer.
Other notables in attendance include Prince Harry, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, business secretary Elizabeth Truss and Alok Sharma the international development secretary.
The UK government said the summit will “showcase and promote the breadth and quality of investment opportunities across Africa” while strengthening the “the UK’s partnership with African nations to build a secure and prosperous future for all our citizens. It will mobilise new and substantial investment to create jobs and boost mutual prosperity.”